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Monday, June 05, 2006

Theory # 25: Readerly Theories: Reviews

And it's even still Monday, so this counts as a Smart Bitches Day post, right?

Oh, quit rolling your eyes. I know, I know. Everybody who blogs about books mentions reviews sooner or later. I am not going to rehash who could or should review books, or who should read or ignore the reviews, or who should have their library cards revoked: the reviewers who write negative reviews or the authors who complain. All of that has been discussed to death, and I'm not going to get into it.

But since I started writing about individual books, I wanted to clarify what I'm trying to do.

The subtitle here: "half-baked theories and tactless comments on all those books I read" is pretty much the premise.

I'm not really writing reviews, unless you compare it with, say, Amazon reviews, then I guess I am. I've posted a few reviews on Amazon--they're more balanced than what I write here. And if I ever get off my butt, I'll probably do more. It's fun, and I like stretching my mind to find good and bad points about a book.

There are other sites where I write only positive things about books, as they're promotional sites. If I loathe a book, it'll probably be mostly just a synopsis. Or I'll find things I think someone else would like.

So here, I just write my gut reaction. How much I enjoyed a book. That's all. Just how much I, personally, at the time that I read it, enjoyed that particular book.

I'm not dissecting the literary merit of books--I don't have the experience, the vocabulary, or the desire to do that. I may mention some writing issues, but only as far as they affected my enjoyment of a book.

I freely admit that my opinions are sometimes colored by things beyond the writer's control. I usually try to realize when that happens and I'll say that. If I don't, feel free to call me on it. In fact, feel free to argue with me. I'm fully aware that I'm posting opinions. It's like arguing the merits of a painting. It might be the most technically perfect, artistically deep painting of a horse ever, and I may be able to recognize that, but I don't like horses, and I don't want it on my wall.

So, that's it. Just my impressions. Maybe eventually I'll switch to doing the kind of reviews here I post on Amazon, but first I've got to get the too-sweet taste out of my mouth after years of writing promotional posts about books. If I'm occasionally harsh, I apologize. I do promise to confine my comments to the books themselves.

Okay, I can't resist. One teeny thing. It's obvious, anyway. I don't believe that all books are created equal. I do, however, respect the work that goes into them, and I think I show that by finishing every book I start. And I respect them by holding them to the highest standard: a book that makes me say, when I finish it, "now that was a good book," a book that makes me, just for a minute, think I never need to read another book again, because this was the pinnacle of reading pleasure.

And don't discount the mediocre read. I can't read too many excellent books in a row without causing my head to explode... or at least dulling the pleasure I get from them. A mediocre read is an undemanding read. A palate cleanser. A good story to read when I'm tired, or PMS-y or distracted. I worry about running out of mediocre reads more than excellent ones. I've got enough must-buy authors on my list to ensure that I always have very good books available.

And the books I just plain do not like at all? Well, they've got their purpose, too--contrast. They make me appreciate the ones I love all the more, and, ironically, I learn more about writing craft from books I hate than from books I love.

In other words, it's all good. But that doesn't mean I'm going to give them all 5 stars.


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